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The Water Cycle The constant circulation of water from the Earth’s surface to the atmosphere and back again is known as the Water Cycle. Evaporation: water changing from a liquid to a gas. Evaporation increases with hotter temperatures. Transpiration: the release of water vapor from plants. Plants absorb water through their roots and use it in the process of photosynthesis. Water leaves the plants through tiny openings (called stomata) on the underside of leaves and re-enters the atmosphere. Condensation: water changing from a gas to a liquid. Just as evaporation requires warmer temperatures, condensation occurs when air that is holding water vapor cools. If this happens in the atmosphere, a cloud forms (clouds are a bunch of water droplets or ice crystals). If it happens on the surface, it forms dew or frost. Infiltration: water soaks into the ground. It can either be sucked up by plant roots or continue down through rocks and soil and become part of groundwater. Groundwater is the source of water for wells and lakes and rivers. Groundwater eventually works its way back to the ocean. Run off: any water that collects on the Earth’s surface. This includes puddles, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, glaciers, and the ice caps.